Baseball Park Food Is So Overpriced, Do I Still Have To Tip?

Reader J was at the Giants game the other day and bought a seriously overpriced ballpark item from a vendor and was wondering if an additional tip was appropriate for a $6 hot chocolate.

J says:

So I went to a baseball game over the weekend, (Giants @ at&t park!) and I had a question. Now we all know food there is expensive, overpriced, but that’s how the stadium makes money, and we just buy it because we’re having a good time, so a little overpriced food for a day of fun isn’t a big deal.

My question is, with all those vendors walking around selling things like cotton candy, popcorn, coffee, hot chocolate, etc etc, are we suppose to tip them? I mean I’m already paying for overpriced food, and it’s their job to walk around selling food, but should we tip as well?

I was purchasing an overpriced cup of hot chocolate for $6, and I had a $10 bill, and the guy asked if I wanted my change. In another instance, when another vendor was selling a cup of hot chocolate (or coffee) to another customer, the customer paid $12, but only for one cup. The vendor confirmed either the guy wanted one or two cups (he wanted one), so the vendor gave back his change, but I swore he only gave back $5, so did he take $1 as a tip?

I also know there are these people that walk around with menus that let you order, and they bring the food to you, I assume you should tip them, since they’re more like waiters? I’m not sure but I don’t go to baseball games too much, so I was just wondering!

As a person who only buys beer at these kinds of things (Hey, I like beer,) it had never really occurred to me not to tip a vendor, but I can see how it would be hard to tip when buying a $6 cup of Swiss Miss. The last time I bought Swiss Miss it was, like, $0.75 for a whole box of little packets.

Even so, we’re pretty sure you should tip the vendor — because according to this article in Slate, they don’t get to pick what they sell. So if they get stuck selling King Midas’ Swiss Miss, it’s not really their fault.

From Slate:

Sellers get paid on commission, so expensive items that sell in high volume (i.e., beer) are the most coveted. On game day, each vendor buys a lot of their assigned product at the commissary; any beers that get stolen, lost, or given away as freebies come out of his pocket. After work, the cashier at the commissary pays him a certain sum for each beer (or other food item) sold. Commissions range from about 7 percent to 19 percent—up to $1.14 on a $6 beer. In some ballparks, commissions increase as a vendor meets sales goals.

In general, the best and the most-senior vendors choose to sell beer, while the rookies handle hot dogs and peanuts. To sell beer, you have to be 21 years old, and you’re supposed to undergo special training. ARAMARK, which manages concessions for 11 teams (including the Angels, Astros, Red Sox, and Braves), requires that all beer vendors study how to identify and deal with drunken fans.

Location also makes a difference in meeting your sales goals. Folks in the cheap seats tend to buy in bulk but give less in tips. If the sales manager doesn’t assign areas of the stadium, vendors work out informal systems to divvy up the sections based on seniority.

Being a stadium vendor is also something of an art form, MentalFloss has a list of 9 famous stadium vendors — one of them even has his own baseball card!

Here’s a particularly awesome guy who sells beer at Cleveland Indians games:

So, in short, yes a tip for good service is appropriate. The real problem here is that even for a baseball stadium, AT&T park is somewhat overpriced. Maybe next time skip the expensive hot chocolate and get some garlic fries and an Anchor Steam.

So, You Want to Be a Beer Vendor [Slate]
9 Famous Stadium Vendors [MentalFloss]